Always erudite, frequently funny, and often surprising—a treat for lovers of the book qua book.

INDEX, A HISTORY OF THE

A BOOKISH ADVENTURE FROM MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPTS TO THE DIGITAL AGE

This book’s playful title announces both its subject and its tone.

Duncan, a professor of English, opens by observing that “the humble back-of-book index…is one of those inventions that are so successful…that they can often become invisible.” Then the author makes visible its development and refinement. This may sound like dry stuff, but the narrative both sparkles with geeky wit (the plural form indices is “for mathematicians and economists”) and shines with an infectious enthusiasm, as when the author celebrates the blurry impression of the very first page number. In the early chapters, Duncan discusses the development of the physical book, a survey that includes such delicious moments as the examination of a faithfully copied but useless medieval index to a book whose original had different pagination. He follows a mostly chronological, march-through–Western Civilization organization—any analogous systems used for organizing information in non-Western cultures go unmentioned. Within this structure, Duncan ranges back and forth in history. In the chapter on Renaissance-era scholars’ anxiety that an index would lead readers to skip the book proper, he touches on both Socrates’ skepticism of written language and modern-day hand-wringing at the effects of the internet on reading. A chapter on the emergence of the “weaponized index” treats readers to some epically funny battles in snark. The book’s illustrations are few but well chosen, presenting both the odd marginal symbol Duncan likens to “a snake holding a machine gun” inked by a 13th-century scholar, and the cheeky “Hi!” William F. Buckley wrote next to the index entry for Mailer, Norman in a gifted copy of his memoir. Duncan brings his chronicle into the digital present before closing with not one, but two indexes: a machine-generated one and a human-compiled one, by Paula Clarke Bain, member of the Society of Indexers, whose wit matches the author’s and underscores his passionate appreciation of the art.

Always erudite, frequently funny, and often surprising—a treat for lovers of the book qua book.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-324-00254-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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